What is Reincarnation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Reincarnation is a concept which is common to many religious beliefs and spiritual practices. According to the theory of reincarnation, when people die, some part of themselves lives on in another person or organism. Different faiths have different approaches to this concept, and there are a number of versions of the reincarnation myth found around the world. Western religions, for example, notably reject the concept for the most part, although texts such as the Bible do have references which could be construed as discussions of reincarnation.

The concept of reincarnation is an integral aspect of Buddhist practice.
The concept of reincarnation is an integral aspect of Buddhist practice.

Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism are probably most famous for their associations with reincarnation. In these faiths, people believe that their actions in life have an influence on their future reincarnations. By exhibiting good behavior, someone is said to be more likely to be reincarnated as a person, or taken out of the cycle altogether as a reward, while people who act poorly may be reincarnated as more base animals or organisms such as plants, in a form of punishment.

Many practitioners of pagan and new age beliefs support the idea of reincarnation. Some people claim to have memories of past lives, and suggest that souls are returned to Earth again and again to learn valuable lessons or to contribute something to human society. People who claim to have memories of past lives often have competing claims to previous lives as noted historical figures, such as Cleopatra, which tends to make such claims less believable.

Some tribal cultures also manifest some form of belief in reincarnation, usually in the form of superstitions about specific plants and animals. According to these cultures, their ancestors live on in the bodies of particular plant and animal species, and these organisms are therefore sacred to avoid accidentally using ancestors for base uses such as building a home or making dinner. These taboos may also lead people to make offerings to sacred plants and animals as a gesture of respect to their ancestors.

The abundance of reincarnation myths around the world is perhaps understandable. Many people find some appeal in the idea that a fundamental part of themselves will live on after death, even though their bodies may decay. Family members may also find comfort in the thought that their loved ones still exist somewhere on Earth, even if they do not make contact. In some societies, people may attempt to identify their loved ones in other people, occasionally adopting their reincarnated family members or contributing gifts to them.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


there is no such thing as reincarnation. when you die, you either go to hell, purgatory or heaven.


Can a person be reincarnated into heaven? or just be reincarnated back on earth?


i was cleopatra .. i am 100% sure of it.. i want to prove it


Actually, being reincarnated as a lower life form is not a form of punishment nor is being reincarnated on a higher plane a reward. Rather the spirit is attracted to the existence that is in accordance with its actions. If one is violent in this life, the next life will be full of violence. In a way the universe is like a jigsaw puzzle....where you "fit" is where you will be born. Buddhism does not believe in reward and punishment, just cause and effect.

Post your comments
Forgot password?